Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Red Momma Report

Some of you may be wondering about what happened to Red Momma (RM), who was rescued last month and then had her babies in captivity.

RM before she was rescued
Although her fellow squirrels might think "Better Dead than Red Momma", she actually hasn't had it too bad. I'm sure she misses life in PCV, but she was given the best vet care to get rid of all the nasty bugs that had been bothering her, and she was provided with a comfy indoor "nest" in which to have her babies. That's the good news.

Now for the bad news: for some reason RM was not nursing her babies. She may have been too sick to do it, or it might have been fear of her new environment. She needed some help. 

The Pinkies
Sadly, two pinkies died, but happily, the other two survived and are doing well. They're getting bigger and stronger by the day. Their eyes are not open yet and they don't have their fur, but they wriggle and squirm a lot, and they have just begun moving their tails around! It's very cute to watch. Tails are an important part of a squirrel's communication system.

The male is pink and the female is "black".
Click to enlarge any picture.   


feeding a pinkie

open up!

It's a big job to be a surrogate parent to baby squirrels. They have to be fed about every 3 hours. They have to be kept very warm. It's easy for them to get too cold and that could even kill them. A heating pad is used but it must be kept at just the right temperature, and not get so hot that it could burn them. It's also very easy for them to become dehydrated. Another killer of baby squirrels is diarreah, so their stools must be watched and evaluated and their feedings adjusted accordingly. It's pretty much a full time job.

Meanwhile the mother in this case has been taking it easy. RM looks beautiful now and is being fed well and getting plenty of rest in her 5-star cage. Her dinner plate yesterday held the following:

salad greens
corn on the cob
1 grape
1 walnut
1 almond
2 peanuts

Guess what she went for first? Hint: you can take the squirrel out of PCV, but you can't take PCV out of the squirrel. If you guessed peanuts you were right. À la recherche du temps perdu, of her peanut days of the past, no doubt! She did end up eating everything on her plate though.

The next challenge is to get the mother together with the babies. It would be good to do that, even though they've been getting excellent care from their surrogate parent.  Right now she growls at them, so some experimentation needs to be done, such as placing their container near her cage for periods of time so she can be close to them without being able to touch them. The hope is that she'll become less stressed and begin to interact with them, maybe even start feeding them. 

Back at PCV, Alphie's Evil Twin (ET), the one responsible for evicting RM, still has sole possession of the Orange Tree. When I passed by the other day, ET came running down all alone: there were no other squirrels in the tree, which used to be full of them before ET came to town. I had initially thought ET was a male because of the bullying behavior, but I think the takeover of the tree indicates the behavior of a female.   

Capturing a tree appears to be an important way for female squirrels to survive. The ones who have their own trees seem to do better.  It certainly has been true for Spunky, who has always commanded her own tree and has enjoyed longevity compare to other squirrels, who come and go. 

And now Gray Momma (GM) has taken Spunky's lead and has gained possession of the big tree by the flagpole. Although squirrels can still go up and down that tree, you  know when GM emerges from her den (where supposedly she is nursing her babies) because there is a loud whoosh whoosh sound, along with the sight of squirrels scattering in all directions as she whisks them away. 
The lovely GM

GM on her tree

This is why things were critical for RM when she was pushed out of  her tree by ET on that cold winter day.  She was carrying four babies and was also quite sick at the time, so she was not in a position of strength to defend her tree. Now that she is so much better it will be interesting to see what happens when she goes back. Ideally she will be bringing her babies with her. But first she has to get to know them.

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